Parents and teachers try to find books that will interest youngsters so that they will read and more and read better without realizing that mystery stories can not only accomplish this but will encourage critical thinking as well.
The difficulty in working with poor readers to improve their reading skills is in figuring out how to motivate them to read enough to master the craft. Sometimes it is matter of finding the right book at the right reading level that will capture the attention of the young reader and create an environment that plunges him into the story.
Sports Mystery Stories Are Useful Tools on Several Levels
As an encouragement to read, a sports mystery book provides a built-in incentive for the reader to read the book through to the end. Like adults, kids become hooked on a whodunit for exactly the same reason that adults do—they want to know: Who is the guilty party? Who are the suspects? Who is the most likely culprit? How can the evildoer be caught and brought to justice? How much risk is involved for our hero or heroine or our friends trying to solve the mystery?
Reading along as the plot unfolds and the sleuths try to figure out what happened, why it happened, and how it happened causes the reader to become involved in the critical-thinking process. Sometimes the reader tries to second-guess what might happen next, and a teacher or parent can help by asking questions that focus the child attention on the story, not the words, which is so useful.
The role of the mystery story in encouraging problem-solving techniques has prompted the Yale-New-Haven Teachers Institute to promote detective fiction in its curriculum content. Problem–solving strategies used in investigation and crime solving have important life applications claims the Institute. And who are we to argue? Makes perfect sense.
Make the Process Fun Rather than Hard Work
I chose a sports theme for my mystery stories because children can relate to situations that develop on the playground, field, floor, or the ice, often without the supervision of an adult, or without an adult awareness of the problems individual children are facing. Reading about children who find ways to deal with various problems inspires hope in young readers who have problems, too.
The first sports mystery I wrote took place within a hockey framework (Something’s Missing), the second has a soccer setting (Someone’s Trapped) and the third will have a basketball backdrop (Somebody Loves the Net). Okay, that last title isn’t carved in stone—I’m still working on it!
The role of the parent in helping a child read and become a good reader is to do everything to make reading a happy experience. Leave phonics and the work of sounding out words to the teacher. Supply the words the child doesn’t know so that he can get on with the story. Remember, you are helping in a process that improves both reading and critical thinking. Do whatever it takes to make it fun.
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